Notes from “The Learning Paradigm College”

I’m reading “The Learning Paradigm College” by John Tagg. I am posting my notes on this blog as I read — virtually highlighting phrases and scribbling in the margins on this blog– a public act — as an experiment in documenting my own learning.

One sentence in the Foreword (by Peter T. Ewell, Vice President of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, 2002) strikes me. I underline and even post it here.

“So long as we are centered on instructional delivery, instead of the central act of students making meaning from their encounters with problems and new knowledge, well-intentioned reforms will never take.”

This gives me pause for reflection…but I read on…

He states that many faculty members “…are apt to resent critiques of current institutional practice as attacks on their own competence and commitment.”

In my experience, I’m not sure that’s been the case. I think, more often than not, the faculty who hear about student-centered pedagogy and then do not change their practices, see it more like an alternative lifestyle practices, like an organic vegetarian diet and daily practice of yoga.

Those who do those things may be healthier…but really?
Those things require a lot of work and training. AND are the benefits really so much better than what I’m doing? Student-centered teaching is a total lifestyle transformation (in the work place).

And like the organic food movement, student-centered pedagogy has made steady progress in infiltrating mainstream institutions, but still remains on the fringe.

Other pertinent quotes  from “The Learning Paradigm College” by John Tagg:

“The problem is that the explicitly stated values–which always include a strong commitment to undergraduate education–are often at variance with the actual values that drive our decisions and policies.”
Tagg cites “What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited” Alexander Astin, 1993

“[Instruction ] can be a useful tool. But it only a tool. when we make the production of tools the objective and ignore what the tools are meant to achieve we produce warped priorities and incoherent plans. To say that the mission of a college is instruction is like saying that the mission of General Motors is to produce assemble lines or that the mission of a hospital is to keep beds filled.” (Barr and Tagg, 1995)

“if colleges exist to produce instruction, then activities that aren’t instruction, however the paradigm defines it, are simply excluded.



8 ways to assess a student

Thinking about assessment:

as • sess (ses’) v.t.
[late ME < ML L
assess (us) ptp. of
assidere (ad + sedere)]
to sit down beside

Alverno College developed an assessment approach with 8 ways to assess student learning



Describes what a student will be able to do with what she knows in personal, professional, and/or academic contexts as a result of a set of learning experiences.


Demonstration of abilities in action in the kind of integrated situation in which students would use them in their life beyond campus


Specific indicators of ability/knowledge as seen in performance.

Criteria provide a picture of ability/knowledge in action:

allowing an instructor/assessor to make judgments

helping a beginning learner imagine a successful performance

incorporating qualitative dimensions of performance


Tells a student how well she is doing from a perspective outside herself

Like a mirror, provides a student with matter for both reflection and growth

Raises questions that enable a student to critique and further develop her abilities and ideas

Can assist a student to separate her performance from her judgment of self


Achievement of distance from classroom learning experiences by various degrees

Self Assessment

The ability of a student to observe, analyze, and judge her performance on the basis of criteria and determine how she can improve it